attire nessman who, unable to domesticate an Australian wolf dog given to him as a present, dropped the huge animal off on a deserted Thicket road. The dog loped off into dense underbrush and disappeared, and now homesteaders are reporting the depredations of a wolf pack led by a gigantic black dog. Equally surprising, a colony of monkeys were discovered living in the Thicket in the fall of 1966. AT LEAST 300 bird species live year-round in the Big Thicket; how many species of migratory birds live there part of the year is not known. The area is one of the major resting places along the Gulf Coast for migratory birds of all kinds, and hundreds of diferent species haVe been reported. In all, the Big Thicket contains seven kinds of woodpeckers, four kinds of owls, the bald eagle, three kinds of hawks, and an almost unsurpassed variety of water birds: little blue heron, blackcrowned night heron, yellow-crowned night heron, roseate spoonbill, snowy egret, wood duck, American egret, green heron, kingfisher, and water turkey. Yet the roadrunner is also found there, along with many other typically Western birds. Besides serving as a sanctuary for migratory birds, the Big Thicket shelters several rare bird species. The last known ivory-billed woodpeckers were sighted in north Florida over a decade ago. Bigger than a crow, gaudily plumed, the ivorybills can live only in vast tracts of virgin timbera natural condition now vanishing faster than Harold Stassen’s last campaign support. Until this spring, when an undetermined number were found nesting in the Big Thicket, the ivory-billed woodpecker was generally conceded to be extinct. The Audubon Society has sent out a special message to its national membership. But no one will say precisely where the ivory-billed woodpeckers are located, for fear of local marksmen. There has been only one attempt to catalogue the plants and animals of the Thicket. Park’s and Cory’s Biological Survey of the Big Thicket Region incomplete and tentative study, pleads for extensive scientific research in the region. It is safe to say that much of this research 5exai and the Ra p e Mother The unenlightenment, the callous indifference, the selfishness, the Neanderthal nature of Texas government is nowhere more clearly apparent than in this state’s reprehensible record in conservation of the gifts nature bestowed so richly and in such great variety. The first six pages of this issue of the Observer touch on many of the failures of vision and of concern that are leading to widespread defilement of the Texas landscape, blemishes that in many instances are irremediable. The most basic single weakness of Texas government since 1939, when W. Lee 0′-Daniel succeeded Jimmy Allred as governor, has been the almost cavalier lack of concern for the welfare of the people. Natural beauty, the preservation of oyster reefs, free state parks, control of air and water pollution all these things may seem unrelated to the most urgent needs of people. But as our state proceeds to grow, as more and more millions of people crowd within its boundaries, the concerns of conservation become less and less esoteric and of more day-to-day concern to an increasing number of Texans. This is first becoming so, on a Widespread basis, in the Houston area, where burgeoning population and mushrooming industrial complexes are now crowding each other. This is a propinquity that, many citizens are discovering, is most unhappy, given the lack of controls on pollution the state insists on, or permits its localities to exercise. Pollution is far more than just a word to those who inhabit the Ship Channel area. And what is to happen to those Texans who yearn for escape now and then from the frightful, dehumanizingly dreary cityscape that modern America is coming to be? The rural landscape is being axed clown, its waters poisoned, in the name of progress, industrial development, and construction of residential subdivisions. Perhaps you will be shocked as were we to learn how pitifully modest is the proposal earnestly championed by Sen. Ralph Yarborough to preserve a few pieces of 2 The Texas Observer the Big Thicketless than 3% of that natural treasure. That’s all that can now be saved, practically speaking, given the depredations of man in that region. Also shocking is the behavior of commercial interests in the Thicket area; shocking the only term that begins to describe the situation. AND THERE is no evidence that Texas has’ ceased fouling its own nest. On the contrary, there is an acceleration of despoliation. Consider some of the recent developments: A presidentialAdklisory board on water pollution recent de’clared that the Houston Ship ChanneT,Ais one of the most poisonous bodies of water in the world. Seagulls dare not land on the channel’s water. The story is told, a true story, about a fugitive who, with lawmen hard on his heels, came upon the channel and decided to surrender rather than risk swimming through those waters to elude his pursuers. A national conservationist has deplored the state’s permitting dredging of shell to within 300 feet of live oyster reefs. In 1963 the Texas regulation was changed lowering the limit from 1,500 to 300 feet. The conservationist said this move is, among i , other things, destroying the feeding of “the most important colony” of:-roseate spoonbills in North Ameriea:.:Tfie dredging stirs up silt and creates deep pools of stagnant water, killing the shrimp and other marine life that the spoonbills and other birds feed on. “It’s shameful,” the conservationist said. “The State of Texas is giving away those bay bottoms to shell dredgers as political pay-i offs.” This was a reference to the now well-known fact that several large dredgers are supporters of Gov. John Connally. State Rep. Ed Harris, Galveston, one of several Houston area legislators who are deeply concerned about conservation and pollution matters, has noted that dredgers pay only about $1 million annually to the state to dredge shell that is sold commercially for about $26 million a year. “Is it any wonder,” Harris asks, “that the shell dredgers resist restriction or regulation, when they are fighting to protect a $25 million annual profit accruing to a selfish special interest?” Harris believes that what happened at Nueces Bay near Corpus Christi is an example of Galveston Bay’s fate: “The dredgers had their way in Nueces Bay, and today it is little more than a dredged-out hole of silt and water . . . There is little time left: The shell in Galveston Bay, including the live reefs, will be gone in less than a decade.” Corpus Christi now is trying to hold the line against the oil companies who ardently want to drill in the bay there. The rigs are unsightly blemishes on the bayfront and there is concern among the citizens that too many rigs are being erected. Of course pollution of the water is another consideration where oil is being drilled. CORRECTLY apprehending that the state needs more parks, the legislature has submitted a $75 million bond issue to the people for a vote later this year. But the bonds are to be paid off by charging $1-per-car admission to the parks. Parks should be open to all at no cost. Several thousand dead fish washed up on the shore near Galveston earlier this year. No one knows why. It could be because of pollution or because of the ecological changes being wrought by the dredgers in the bay. During a recent legislative committee hearing the mayor of Baytown testified that such fish kills had been experienced in his city eight times in the preceding twelve months. Let Texans take far more seriously than before the grievous problems affecting the appearance and inhabitability of our state. There is much inspiration and renewal to be drawn from our environment, if we will but take the common sense precautions that nature requires.
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.